Void fill packaging (also called box filler or dunnage) fills empty space in shipped parcels to keep products from moving around inside the box during transit. Using void fill packaging allows eCommerce fulfillment operations to buy bulk amounts of various-sized boxes, reducing the overall cost of packing and shipping high volumes of goods sold online.
As an example, most readers will find foam packaging peanuts familiar, though this particular type of void fill has fallen into disuse because it makes a mess, creates a negative customer experience, and is not eco-friendly. While the packaging peanut still has its occasional uses, there are several more viable options for void fill packaging in eCommerce shipping.
Most Popular Void Fill Packaging Solutions
The ideal void fill will provide a balance between smaller items that require a full protective nest and medium or larger items that have some inherent durability but need some cushioning to keep them from shifting around in a box. Below are the most frequently used void fill packaging products in eCommerce packaging, with a summary of PROs and CONs.
Kraft paper is a simple brown paper with many different names – butcher paper, packing paper, brown paper, wrapping paper, crafting paper, and many others. They all refer to this same solution. As void fill packaging, kraft paper offers these benefits:
- Recyclable. It is an excellent choice for businesses concerned about sustainability. Recycled kraft paper is made from pulp gathered from recycled books, cardboard boxes, and other paper materials. Mixed kraft paper uses a mix of new and recycled pulp.
- Affordable. Kraft paper can be made from a wide variety of light or heavy woods. Paper manufacturers may also mix wood types and can also make kraft paper from low-quality wood that isn’t suitable for other purposes. These low material costs make kraft paper a cost-effective form of void fill packaging.
- Versatile. Packagers can crumple and stuff kraft paper into spaces of virtually any shape or size. Kraft paper also comes in specialized varieties with wax, coatings, or coloring to suit specific product needs, and it won’t scratch delicate products.
- Convenient. It comes in large rolls for easy use, shipping, and storage.
Kraft paper drawbacks include:
- Packagers may easily overuse and waste material
- It takes significant amounts of paper to fill large voids
- Paper adds some weight to the parcel
- Heavy products may compress paper in transit and reduce its effectiveness
Air pillows have become a popular solution for void fill packaging. A specialized machine inflates plastic film and uses heat to seal it, creating a plastic bubble that effectively protects goods during shipment. Some of the major benefits of air pillows include:
- Low weight. Air pillows add virtually no additional weight to packages. This helps high-volume eCommerce shippers reduce overall parcel shipping costs.
- Better safety. Some packaging solutions require the use of gloves to avoid minor injuries. Packagers won’t get paper cuts or dry skin from continuous contact with air pillows.
- Higher protection. Air pillows typically provide a higher level of protection during the shipping process than other solutions, which makes them well-suited to protecting delicate goods.
- Easy storage and use. Air pillow films are stored and shipped in large and convenient rolls. The pillows are quickly and easily filled at the packaging point using compressed air.
Air pillow disadvantages include:
- Difficult to recycle
- Higher upfront equipment costs
- More expensive than other void fill packaging options
Bubble wrap consists of a plastic sheet with dozens or hundreds of protective air pockets that absorb shocks and keep products safe. Used as both void fill packaging and as wrap, bubble wrap offers a versatile packaging solution in specific cases. Advantages include:
- Good for fragile items. Bubble wrap is highly moldable and great for creating protective nests for delicate products.
- Moldable. Packagers can use bubble wrap to protect oddly shaped products or fill voids of any shape or size.
- High protection. Protects from shocks, impacts, and scratches for any product type.
- Difficult to recycle
- Product comes inflated, which means rolls take up more room during storage and shipping
- Can be time-consuming to use during the packing process
The best void fill packaging for your operation will depend largely on the type of products you ship and how well those products fit into standard box sizes. Ultimately, you must pick the solution that best protects your products, so they will reach your customers undamaged. Keep in mind that the popular solutions above may not work with every product type. Some fragile or liquid-filled products might need non-standard solutions or fully custom packaging.
At Amware Fulfillment, we’ve worked with a full gamut of product types over many years, so we know how to identify the best void fill packaging solution to protect your product while minimizing your costs. Contact us today for more information about our B2C fulfillment services.